Are Clerks Officers?

June 20, 1867


The Dispatch claims that clerks are not the same as officers, and, therefore, do not fall under the same qualifications for enfranchisement as officers before the Civil War.They are dependents of the officers who govern, so they did not rebel.General Peirpoint came to this conclusion before, and the Dispatch hopes General Schofield will as well.


Are Clerks Officers? The clerks in the various departments at Washington are not officers. The public instinct long ago reached this conclusion, and without any prompting has decided that they are merely "office-holders." If they had been officers this latter word would never have been coined. If they are officers, then the porters, messengers, fire-makers, water-carriers, and bootblacks are also officers; for they are all alike mere servants of the heads of the various bureaus (who are officers), and may be removed at any time, for cause or for no cause. Clerks are, in fact, dependants upon the officers of the Government, and are no more officers than are the printers who print this paper its editors and proprietors. An officer has some sort of tenure of office - as, for instance, either for life, or during good behavior, or for so many years. But a clerk has no such tenure - he is not appointed for life; nor during good behavior, for he may be removed at any time, no matter how well he performs the duties of his position; nor for so many years for the same reason. An officer's duties are defined by law. A clerk is made to do one thing to-day and another to-morrow; to change from room to room, and from one kind of work to another; he may be a mere copyist to-day, an auditor of accounts to-morrow, and a letter-writer the next day. We hope that General Schofield, who has proved himself to be so good a lawyer by his construction of the reconstruction acts, will instruct his registers to enroll all persons who were at one time merely clerks in Washington or elsewhere, even though they afterwards engaged in rebellion. Governor Peirpoint said to us long ago that a clerk was as much an officer as the man that blacked a secretary's boots, and no more. We have no reason to doubt that General Schofield will come to the same conclusion.
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Stacey Dec




“Are Clerks Officers?,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023,